Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February in the Southern District of California

The Southern District of California has been very busy in the Community Outreach Department in February. Besides Judge Miller's and Judge Major's presentations which were previously reported, CASD judges presented on 3 other occasions. 

On February 21, 2014, Magistrate Judge William Gallo presided over a mock trial of 2 students accused of selling fireworks at the District Court.  4th grade students from a local elementary school took on all the roles. The prosecutors were assisted by AUSA Jill Burkhardt and defense counsel were assisted by Sandra Hourani of Federal Defenders of San Diego.  After finding the 2 defendants guilty, the students learned about the U.S. Marshals service and got to meet our bomb sniffing canine and her handler, Deputy Marshal Joanne Boyd. The students, teacher and parent chaperones were very impressed with the presentation indicating that it exceeded their expectations.  The teacher thanked the courts for  "supporting civics education in public schools, especially at the elementary level."

On February 25, 2014, District Judge John Houston traveled to a local middle school and talked to 100 eighth grade students about the federal courts and how a case travels through the court system to the U.S. Supreme Court.  These students had recently studied the U.S. Constitution and had the opportunity to ask Judge Houston general questions about the courts, as well as questions about specific cases over which he had presided. 

Then, on February 26, 2014, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Margaret Mann visited a local high school to talk about her career and the path she took to become a bankruptcy judge. A panel of students asked Judge Mann questions about the bankruptcy process and Judge Mann explained the risks and benefits of  taking out student loans to pay for college.  The students and Judge Mann discussed the various types of bankruptcy filings and statistics on the most prevalent issues being litigated in US Bankrutcy Courts.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Taking the Courtroom to the Classroom

On February 10, 2014, United States Magistrate Judge Barbara Major of the U.S. District for the Southern District of California visited a 4th grade classroom in San Diego. She presided over the mock trial of the People of the Forest v. Goldilocks. Students took on all the speaking roles, including that of judge, and also served as jurors. The students debated whether an invitation from Mama Bear to "Come back any time" included entering the property when no one was home. They discussed with whom the responsibility for breaking a chair lies if the chair is in a weakened condition, and they also discussed whether it is appropriate to eat someone else's breakfast if no one else appears to be eating it.  These youngsters impressed Judge Major with their reading ability and the way they grasped the issues presented. At the end of the event, they had the opportunity to try on Judge Major's robe and received gavel pencils as a reminder of their day "in court."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Judge Miller Hosts AP Government Students

On February 6, 2014, Senior District Judge Jeffrey Miller of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California gave 45 high school seniors a unique opportunity to get a glimpse inside a federal courtroom. The Advanced Placement Government students observed court proceedings for an hour and a half during which they watched the sentencing of a 19 year old caught importing methamphetamine, as well as several other defendants who committed border crimes.  Additionally, two women were brought before the court for revocation of supervised release charges.  The students gave their rapt attention as they witnessed defendants and others appear before the judge. Following a short break, a panel comprised of representatives from the U.S. Marshals, DEA, FBI, the Metropolitan Correction Center, U.S. Probation Office, the Office of the U.S. Attorney, the Office of the Federal Public Defender, and the Office of the Clerk all spoke to the students about their unique and important roles in the criminal justice and court system. They explained the educational  requirements for their jobs and discussed why they love their work. The students had an opportunity to ask questions of all the panel members including Judge Miller and came away with a greater appreciation for what it takes to be a federal law enforcement officer and district court employee.